The head of the Colorado Department of Health announced Wednesday that authorities confirmed surgical infections in "a number of patients" at a Denver hospital at the center of an investigation into sterilization practices.
Infections occurred between July 21, 2016, and April 5 in patients who had orthopedic or spine surgery at the Porter Adventist Hospital. The hospital suspended all surgeries after officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment encountered problems with the way the hospital was cleaning its instruments after surgeries. CDPHE also expressed concern about the waste in the tools after cleaning them, which Porter attributed to a possible water quality problem, according to a CDPHE statement on Wednesday.
In that statement, Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of CDPHE, said Porter has made several changes requested by state officials and that he would resume surgeries "on a limited schedule" on Thursday. His statement did not specify how many patients were discovered to have suffered surgical infections during the time period or what the infections were.
"It is not known if these infections are related to rape and we may not be able to determine the linkage," Wolk said.
When CDPHE announced the rape, he said patients may have had a low risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.
Porter is one of the most active hospitals in the state for orthopedic surgeries. According to state data, Porter surgeons performed more than 2,000 hip or knee replacements between August 2015 and July 2016, the most recent period for which numbers are available. There were eight infections associated with those surgeries, according to CDPHE.
Neither state officials nor hospitals have said how many surgeries were performed during the 2016-18 period of concern about infections.
The health department, which was discussed The rape on February 21 carried out an on-site survey of infection control practices in Porter the following day. A disease control investigation is being carried out.
Patients notified by the hospital receive a list of frequently asked questions.
The letter explains that the problem of sterilization revolved around the first step in a multi-step process. The first step is a pre-cleaning process that occurs before the instruments go through "intense heat sterilization," the letter says.
"Although it is extremely low, there is a risk of surgical site infection or transmission of bloodborne pathogens," he reads. "In the rare case that a patient is positive for a bloodborne pathogen, there are many treatment options available, and your healthcare provider will discuss these cases with you in the unlikely event that you receive a positive result."
The letter explains that a surgical site infection tends to occur within 30 days of surgery, but in a very limited number of cases, symptoms may appear up to a year later if the surgery involved the placement of a prosthesis .
The writer Elizabeth Hernández contributed with this report.